TOWARDS A HISTORY OF EARLY DAOIST VISUALIZATION
Louis Komjathy, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
University of San Diego
note: the Chinese characters in this article were not properly read by this site’s software and appear as gibberish. Our apologies to Louis’ excellent scholarship.
We may approach the history of Daoist meditation (and meditation more generally) in a variety of ways. From a historical perspective, one may research meditative practice in particular Daoist communities (e.g., the Celestial Masters and Great Clarity) or in larger soteriological systems. Another approach, which is utilized in the present paper, involves tracing the creation, modification and systematization of specific methods or types of meditation across historical periods and Daoist traditions.
The earliest type of Daoist meditation was apophatic meditation, that is, contentless, non-conceptual meditation, which was first undertaken within the inner cultivation lineages of classical Daoism (fourth to second centuries BCE). Classical Daoist apophatic meditation and the corresponding methods have been extensively studied by Harold Roth of Brown University, who unfortunately could not participate in this panel. As far as my own research on the history of Daoist meditation goes, the next major type of Daoist meditation was visualization (cunxiang ???). This form of Daoist meditation is often associated with Shangqing ???? (Highest Clarity), but it in fact predates that movement. Moreover, the early expressions of Daoist visualization practice became seminal and central to later Daoist internal alchemy (neidan ?⁄??) (see Robinet 1989b; Pregadio 2006b).
In the present paper I attempt to provide a preliminary history of early Daoist visualization. Specifically, I analyze methods documented in texts of Eastern Han and early Six Dynasties provenance, with the intent of reconstructing a sequence of development. The techniques in question were utilized by members of most of the earliest Daoist movements, including Taiping ô∆Ω (Great Peace), Taiqing ô?? (Great Clarity), and Shangqing ???? (Highest Clarity). This study must be taken as tentative, partially because of complex issues of dating. It has benefited from foundational research by Barbara Hendrischke, Livia Kohn, Isabelle Robinet, and Kristofer Schipper.
NASCENT AND SEMINAL PATTERNS: EASTERN HAN DAOIST VISUALIZATION
The earliest Daoist texts that provide details on Daoist visualization practice date from the Eastern (Later) Han dynasty (20-220 CE), and the earliest forms of Daoist visualization practice originated in the context of the divinization of Laozi, which also occurred in the Eastern Han (see Seidel 1969; Kohn 1999). My preliminary and tentative historical reconstruction of the stages through which Daoist visualization emerged is as follows: (1) Laozi became venerated as a sage and eventually deified as the high god Laojun ???˝ (Lord Lao); (2) In the process, Daoists imagined Laozi as a human being who went through a process of cosmicization and self-divinization (see Puett 2004). Simultaneously, they adapted and developed cosmological and theological views centering on macrocosmic-microcosmic correspondences, wherein the human body was envisioned as an inner landscape and internal universe; and (3) Laozi?s process of self-transformation, through which he became the universe and attained mystical union with the Dao, established a model for Daoists pursuing a similar spiritual path. That is, through visualization, Han dynasty Daoists believed that they would follow the example of Laozi and attain divine transcendence. The uniqueness of Laozi?s path to divinity/godhood became the individual potential of any Daoist aspirant.
Of the various early Daoist texts that presage and explicitly describe visualization, two in particular stand out. These are the Laozi ming ??◊?_ (Inscription for Laozi; trl. by Seidel 1969, 121-30; Csikszentmihalyi 2006, 105-12) and the Laozi zhongjing ??◊???_ (Middle Scripture of Laozi; DZ 1168; Yunji qiqian, DZ 1032, j. 18-19), both of which originally date to and contain materials from the late Eastern Han. Note that each of these texts is associated with Laozi, the reputed Daoist sage, attributed author of the Daode jing, and eventual high god of early Daoism. Internally dated to 165 CE, the Inscription for Laozi is attributed to Bian Shao _??, an official who held a variety of political positions under Han Emperor Huan ?∏ (r. 147-167 CE). The inscription is one of the earliest documents on Laozi?s divinization. It purports to have been inspired by one of Emperor Huan?s dreams in which Laozi appeared, and to memorialize the subsequent imperial sacrifice (Csikszentmihalyi 2006, 105). For present purposes, the inscription is significant for its reference to subtle body locations, complete with esoteric names. There are two relevant passages:
[Laozi] regulated the Three Radiances (sanguang ?˝π?), and the Four Numens (siling ??_) were at his side. He maintained his awareness on (or, ?visualized?; cunxiang ???) the elixir field (dantian ????), and on the Purple Chamber (zifang ◊?∑?) of Taiyi ô?? (Great Unity). When the Dao was completed and his body transformed, he emerged like a cicada shedding its skin to transcend the world. (cf. Csikszentmihalyi 2006, 107-8; Seidel 1969, 44, 123)
[Laozi] joined the radiance of the sun and moon, and became one with the five planets. He entered and exited the Cinnabar Hut (danlu ??_); he ascended and descended the Yellow Court (huangting _?). (cf. Csikszentmihalyi 2006, 112; Seidel 1969, 47-48, 128)
Within these passages, one finds a view of the human body as inner landscape and inner cosmos. They explicitly state that Laozi practiced introspection, visualization and cosmicization. This involved knowing and understanding subtle and esoteric somatic locations, including the esoteric names of dantian (here the navel region), danlu (same), zifang (cranial location), and huangting (possibly either the lower or upper elixir field; later usually the spleen). Although perhaps commonplace to the educated modern reader on Daoism, such knowledge would have indicated access to a high-level of spiritual insight and at least familiarity with Daoist energetic practices.
The anonymous, second century Middle Scripture of Laozi, one of the earliest manuals of Daoist visualization, provides more explicit instructions:
The eight deities of the lungs are the masters of Great Harmony (taihe ô∫?). They are also called the Secretaries of the Palace of Jade Perfection (yuzhen ???). They govern 3,600 minor officials. They ride in carriages of white cloudy vapors (qi) drawn by white tigers. Occasionally they will also ride white dragons.
The nine deities of the heart the strategists and military generals. They are also called the Original Luminants or the Venerable Ones of the South Polestar, Great Beginning (taishi ô??) and the Scarlet Palace (jianggong __). They also govern 3,600 minor officials. They ride in carriages of red cloudy vapors of which vermilion birds furnish the canopies and cinnabar-colored snakes serve as the handles. The carriage is drawn by vermilion birds. Occasionally they will also ride crimson dragons.
The seven deities of the liver are the deities of Lord Lao. They are also called Officials if the Blue Terrace [library] of the Palace of the Hall of Light (mingtang √??√). They govern 3,600 minor officials. They ride in carriages of azure cloudy vapors drawn by azure dragons. Occasionally they will also ride white deer.
The five deities of the gall bladder are the Daoist Masters of Great Unity (taiyi ô??). They reside in the Palace of the Purple Chamber (zifang ◊?∑?). They ride in carriages of jade-colored cloudy vapors covered by a five-colored canopy and drawn by six flying dragons. They also govern 3,600 minor officials.
The five deities of the spleen are the jade maidens and cinnabar mothers of Mysterious Radiance (xuanguang ?˛π?). They ride in carriages of jade-colored cloudy vapors and yellow-gold pearls. Their carriage is drawn by phoenixes. Sometimes they ride yellow dragons. They also govern 3,600 minor officials. (DZ 1168, 1.17b-18a; cf. Homann 1971, 35; Kohn 1991, 231-32)
Here we find the incorporation of traditional Chinese cosmology, namely, the system of correspondences or correlative cosmology based on the Five Phases (wuxing ???). In this respect, the number of organ-gods may correspond to Five Phase numerical or other cosmological associations: Metal (8), Fire (9), Wood (7), and Earth (5), though these numbers deviate from the standardized associations. These passages complexify the attempt to document the historical development of Daoist visualization because they have neither a simple one-to-one association nor the standard five yin-organs. The kidneys are missing, while the gall-bladder is present. That is, each yin-organ contains multiple (not singular) body gods, and their visual appearances may consist of multiple colors.
However, as the earliest version of the Scripture on the Yellow Court (discussed below) contains one-to-one associations, the historical development remains unclear. Did multiple organ-gods predate singular ones, or vice versa? Alternatively, were these competing visualization systems, each deriving from different Daoist communities? That is, was the historical development in the direction of simplification or complexification? In this respect, it is also noteworthy that some visualization manuals describe overlapping gods in the same somatic location (see Pregadio 2006, 132-33).
These details would suggest that we have multiple early Daoist visions of the body as celestial locale. For present purposes, it is noteworthy that the Middle Scripture of Laozi does reference an inner pantheon, including body-gods located in the yin-organs with a corresponding color schema (liver=azure, heart=crimson, lungs=white, spleen=yellow). However, one might also be surprised by the absence of the kidneys here, with their associated color of dark-blue or black.
Another interesting dimension of the Middle Scripture of Laozi is its emphasis on circulating the refined essences of the sun and moon.
Constantly maintain awareness (changsi ≥???) on the sun and moon below the nipples. Within the sun and moon are the yellow essence and crimson qi, which enter the Scarlet Palace. They then enter the Yellow Court and the Purple Chamber. The yellow essence and the crimson qi thoroughly fill the Great Granary (taicang ô_). (DZ 1168, 1.7a)
In this practice, the yellow essence and crimson qi are moved through the heart (Scarlet Palace), spleen (Yellow Court), gall bladder (Purple Chamber), and finally reach the stomach (Great Granary). The purpose is to nourish the Red Child, the deity residing in the Great Granary. In another instance, the yellow essence and red qi are joined and then ingested:
The sage dissolves the pearl; the worthy liquefies the jade. For dissolving the pearl and liquefying jade, the method is the same. Dissolving the pearl means ingesting the essence of the sun, which corresponds to the left eye. Liquefying the jade means feeding on the essence of the moon, which corresponds to the right eye. (DZ 1168, 2.10a)
The related practice consists of lying down and repeatedly visualizing the yellow essence and crimson qi that descend from one?s eyes and enter one?s mouth, so they may be swallowed. Doing so makes one?s spirit bright, and one ?penetrates the eight directions? (ibid.; see also sections 21, 30, 34-36; Pregadio 2006, 135-36; Kat_ 1996)
Although beyond the confines of the present discussion, the Middle Scripture of Laozi provides much more wide-ranging and detailed instructions on the geography of the body and the Daoist inner pantheon (see Schipper 1995, 120-24; Pregadio 2006, 132-34).
The final text that I will examine from the seminal and nascent phase of Daoist visualization practice is the Taiping jing ô∆Ω_ (Scripture on Great Peace; partially lost; DZ 1101; S. 4226; Wang 1960; trl. by Hendrischke 2007). Unlike the Middle Scripture of Laozi, the Scripture on Great Peace is not a visualization manual; rather, it is a wide-ranging religious text. The received Scripture on Great Peace contains materials from a variety of historical periods, and the history of its composition, amendation and transmission is complex (see Hendrischke 2007). An early version is most well-known for its influence on the Taiping ô∆Ω (Great Peace) movement, which was active in Shandong and other eastern Chinese provinces from roughly 174-184 CE. This movement was also known as Huangjin _Ω? (Yellow Kerchiefs; inaccurately translated as ?Yellow Turbans? in earlier Western language publications).
The Taiping jing is, in turn, perhaps most well-known for its salvific, utopian and millenarian vision of an era of Great Peace. However, for present purposes, it is noteworthy that the text does describe visualization practice. Interestingly, the text refers to the practice of visualization, usually cunxiang ??? in Chinese, as shouyi ???? (?guarding the One?) (Hendrischke 2007, 145, 147, n. 9, 161, n. 1; also Yoshioka 1967), a Daoist technical term that may have a variety of designations (see Kohn 1989). Because of diverse textual layers of the received text, it is difficult to confidently date some of these materials to an Eastern Han provenance, so my historical reconstruction must be taken as tentative and perhaps problematic. In any case, some relevant passages read as follows:
Meditate (simian ????) on the shen ??of the five yin-organs; envision (hua _) their coming and going, and see their moving around. You can talk with them?.Thus you will know good and bad fortune. (Wang 1960, 71: 283; Pregadio 128)
The subtle shen of the four seasons and Five Phases internally correspond to the subtle shen of the five yin-organs and externally to the subtle shen of the four seasons and Five Phases?.Their color corresponds to the colors of the seasons of the heavens and earth. (Wang 1960, 72: 292; Robinet 1993, 64-65; Pregadio 128)
Once again, we encounter the yin-organs as the locales of body-gods, but the Scripture on Great Peace and its associated texts have a more standardized set of associations. For example, according to the Tang-dynasty Taiping jing shengjun bizhi ô∆Ω__?˝_?? (Secret Advice of the Sage-Lord on the Taiping jing; DZ 1102; see Yoshioka 1967), a text which purports to collect meditation methods from the Scripture on Great Peace, one visualizes the five primary organs as orbs of corresponding light (liver/azure; heart/crimson; spleen/yellow; lungs/white; and kidneys/black/dark blue) (see Kohn 1993, 193-97). Simultaneously, the text references shen ?? in the yin-organs. While conventionally translated as ?gods? or ?spirits,? here the term might also simply designate spiritual presences rather than actual body-gods. This reading is supported by the fact that the shen do not receive detailed descriptions; the later forms and names of the inner body gods are not mentioned. The Taiping jing might thus point to a Daoist visualization practice in which the primary imagery used is orbs of light.
These various Eastern Han texts thus reveal the human body as inner landscape and inner cosmos, complete with an inner pantheon. We also find the developing importance of correlative cosmology and the five yin-organs in Daoist meditation praxis. One of the primary research questions related to these materials and the historical development of Daoist meditation involves the primacy of color-orb or body-god visualization. One might assume that the historical progression moved from simple color-orbs to more complex body-gods, but I have not, unfortunately, been able to reach a convincing conclusion. At present, it seems that these types of visualization may have been roughly contemporaneous.
THE FIRST FULLY DEVELOPED SYSTEMS: EARLY SIX DYNASTIES DAOIST VISUALIZATION
Many of the most important early medieval Daoist movements emerged during the Six Dynasties period (220-589), also known as the Period of Disunion. With respect to the development and systematization of Daoist visualization practice, two in particular stand out. These are the Taiqing ô?? (Great Clarity) and Shangqing ???? (Highest Clarity) movements. In terms of my current interest, the Great Clarity representative and alchemist Ge Hong?s ∏∫? (Baopu ??∆?[Embracing Simplicity]; 283-343) Baopuzi neipian ??∆?◊??⁄∆? (Inner Chapters of Master Embracing Simplicity; DZ 1185; trl. by Ware 1966) is especially relevant. In chapter eighteen of the Inner Chapters, titled ?Dizhen? ???? (Terrestrial Perfection), we are told,
My teacher used to say, ?By knowing the One (zhiyi ????), the myriad affairs are complete.? Knowing the One means that not a single thing remains unknown?.Visualize (cun ??; or ?maintain?) it, and it is there; startle it, and it is lost. Welcome it, and there is good fortune; turn your back to it, and there is bad luck. Protect (bao ??) it, and there is prosperity without end; lose it and life declines with qi becoming exhausted?.A scripture on immortality says, ?If you want perpetual life, guard the One (shouyi ????) and cultivate illumination (ming √?). Meditate on the One (siyi ????)??. The One has names (xingzi ??◊?) and colored clothing. In men it is nine tenths of an inch tall; in women it is six tenths of an inch tall. Sometimes it is located in the lower elixir field, 2.4 inches below the navel. Sometimes it is located in the middle elixir field, the Gold Portal (jinque Ω_) of the Scarlet Palace below the heart. Still others find it in the Hall of Light, one inch behind the space between the eyebrows, or the Grotto Chamber, two inches in, or the upper elixir field, three inches in. (DZ 1185, 18.1ab; also ibid. passim; see Kohn 1993, 198-204; cf. Ware 1966, 301-8; also ibid., 99-100, 120-21)
In the Inner Chapters of Master Embracing Simplicity, meditation and visualization are located within a larger system of external alchemy (waidan ???), which also includes ritualistic dimensions. Paralleling the visualization instructions of the Middle Scripture of Laozi, here the Daoist adept locates the One in various subtle body regions. However, ?the One? does not seem to be the mystical unification mentioned in classical Daoist texts, but rather the sacred presence of the Dao as manifested in distinct forms in different parts of the body. As the text says, ?The One has names and colored clothing?; this would seem to indicate an esoteric dimension of the text not written down, a dimension that requires oral transmission.
It is also noteworthy that the human body now has ?three elixir fields? (san dantian ?˝????), located in the navel, heart and head region. Through the practice, the Inner Chapters informs us that aspiring adepts will be able to tongshen ???, which could mean ?connect with gods? or ?pervade spirit.? It also confers protection against demons and other dangers, mentioned for example when Ge Hong discusses mountain travel (DZ 1185, ch. 17). Similarly, by ?guarding the One,? the Daoist practitioner will gain numinous abilities, including the ability ?to see all the celestial numens and terrestrial spirits, and to summon all the mountain and river gods? (DZ 1185, 18.4a; Ware 1966, 306; cf. Pregadio 2006, 129-31).
The subsequent Shangqing (Highest Clarity) movement, which made some connection to Great Clarity adherents and which emerged among southern aristocracy in Jurong (near Nanjing, Jiangsu) in the fourth century (see Robinet 1993; Miller), developed the most complex and systematic forms of Daoist visualization practice in Chinese history, many of which also became seminal in later Daoist internal alchemy (neidan ?⁄??). One of the most important and influential texts associated with the early Highest Clarity tradition is the Huangting jing _?_ (Scripture on the Yellow Court; DZ 331; DZ 332; trl. by Huang 1990, 221-54). Here a few words are in order with respect to dating and provenance. The text exists in two editions: (1) A so-called ?outer view? (waijing ??∞) text (DZ 332), which is generally considered older, predates Highest Clarity, and is roughly contemporaneous with some of the Eastern Han texts cited above; and (2) A so-called ?inner view? (neijing ?⁄?∞) version (DZ 331), which is based on the former and which might be of actual Highest Clarity provenance, not in content per se but in composition and application.
The original Scripture on the Yellow Court thus pre-dates the earliest Highest Clarity revelations to the spirit-medium Yang Xi (330-386?). The actual context of composition and intended meaning of the Scripture on the Yellow Court remains unknown, but the text probably dates to the early third century CE and circulated among Jiangnan aristocratic elites. The dating of the outer version is assisted by the existence of a calligraphic rendering by Wang Xizhi (307-365) dated to 356 (see Little 2000, 338-39). Both texts seem to have been composed as visualization manuals in the form of mnemonic poetry, which presumably included oral instructions bestowed during textual transmission and spiritual direction.
Scholarly opinion differs on the relationship of the ?inner view? version with Highest Clarity, especially whether or not it is a ?Shangqing text? (see, e.g., Robinet 1993, 55-96. especially 55-60; also Pregadio 2006, 132, 132-139, 154, n. 39, 156, n. 67). It is not my intent here to adequately address this issue; rather, a few comments will suffice. Beyond the fact that the text was composed within an early Highest Clarity context and the obvious centrality of the text within early and later Highest Clarity, it is noteworthy that the Scripture on the Inner View of the Yellow Court differs markedly from the Scripture on the Outer View of the Yellow Court. The latter parallels much of the content of the above-mentioned Eastern Han texts, especially with respect to esoteric names and somatic locations.
In contrast, and particularly noteworthy, the former contains a more systematized presentation of the body as celestial locale. For present purposes, the text is especially interesting for its complex mapping of the Daoist body, including various mystical locales and body-gods. Specifically, the text combines correlative cosmology with a theistic body map wherein each yin-organ contains distinct body-gods, complete with esoteric names and clothing:
The spirit of the heart is [called] Elixir Origin, given name Guarding the Numen.
The spirit of the lungs is [called] Brilliant Splendor, given name Emptiness Complete.
The spirit of the liver is [called] Dragon Mist, given name Containing Illumination.
The spirit of the kidneys is [called] Mysterious Obscurity, given name Nourishing the
The spirit of the spleen is [called] Continuously Existing, given name Ethereal Soul
The spirit of the gall bladder is [called] Dragon Glory, given name Majestic Illumination.
(DZ 331, 3a)
The text then goes on to describe the specific forms, or visual appearances, of each organ-god to be visualized during mediation:
[The youth (tongzi ??◊?) of the lungs wears] white brocade robes with sashes of yellow clouds?[The youth of the heart wears] flowing cinnabar brocade robes with a jade shawl, gold bells and vermilion sashes?[The youth of the liver wears] azure brocade robes with a skirt of jade bells?[The youth of the kidneys wears] black brocade, cloud robes with dancing dragon banners?[The youth of the spleen wears] yellow brocade, jade robes with a tiger-emblem sash?[The youth of the gall bladder wears] nine-colored brocade robes with a green flower skirt and a gold belt (DZ 331, 3b-6a).
That is, the wuxing color associations are mentioned in the section of the Huangting jing that directly follows the passage listing the esoteric names of the organ-spirits. The wuxing colors are primary, but there are also secondary colors as well as ?anthropomorphic? images for the organ-spirits. The adept encounters and becomes inhabited by body-gods with very specific visual appearances, including robes with corresponding colors and symbols.
With Highest Clarity proper, we enter a complex and multi-faceted Daoist religious system wherein visualization occupied a major position. As anyone familiar with the work of Isabelle Robinet knows, it would take an entire book if not multiple books to map the Highest Clarity system. Here I will simply provide some glimpses into key Highest Clarity visualization practices, which also became a standardized and shared repertoire in later Daoist neidan. Paralleling the Scripture on the Yellow Court, the Dadong zhenjing ??∂???_ (Perfect Scripture of Great Profundity; DZ 6) provides detailed instructions on visualization.
This is an anonymous Highest Clarity text dating to the formative moments of the movement; it is, perhaps, the most important early scripture of Highest Clarity (see Robinet 1983; 1993, 97-117). While the inner pantheon of this text differs from that of the Scripture on the Yellow Court and the Middle Scripture of Laozi (see Pregadio 2006, 132-35, 156, n. 67), it is noteworthy that the ?inner child? occupies a similar position in its visualization practice. The Perfect Scripture of Great Profundity concludes by describing how the Daoist adept creates a transcendent spirit by ingesting and coalescing cosmic ethers that descend from his or her upper elixir field:
Next contemplate (si ??) a five-colored purple cloud entering into your body from the Niwan (Mud-ball) point. Then swallow this divine cloud with your saliva. It will coalesce into a spirit body (shenshen ???) wrapped in a five-colored, purple, white and roseate round luminous wheel. There is a god [or, simply ?spirit?] inside this wheel. Below he spreads himself within your entire body, distributing his presence (qi) to your Nine Apertures (jiukong ?≈?◊). It coalesces on the tip of your tongue. (DZ 6, 6.13b-14a)
The text identifies this transcendent spirit as Diyi zunjun ????◊?˝ (Venerable Lord Sovereign One), thereby equating him with Shangshang Taiyi ????ô?? (Supreme Great One) of the earlier model (see Pregadio 2006, 133).
The Sovereign One
Source: Dadong zhenjing, DZ 6, 6.13b
Finally, Highest Clarity visualization practice also focused on the larger cosmos and included connecting with various constellations and hidden sacred realms. One representative example will suffice. One of the most representative types of meditation focuses on the sun, moon, and stars. In the Jinque dijun sanyuan zhenyi jing Ω_???˝?˝?????_ (Scripture on the Perfect Ones of the Three Primes by the Lord of the Golden Tower; DZ 253; cf. DZ 1314; trl. Andersen 1980), part of the original fourth century Highest Clarity revelations, aspiring adepts are instructed to visualize the Big Dipper according to the method of ?guarding the One? (shouyi zhi fa ??????∑?):
At midnight on the lichun ???∫ (Spring Begins) node [approx. February 2nd], practice aligned meditation (zhengzuo ?˝◊?) facing east. Exhale nine times and swallow saliva thirty-five times.
Then visualize (cun ??) the seven stars of the Northern Dipper as they slowly descend toward you until they rest above you. The Dipper should be directly above your head, with its handle pointing forward, due east. Visualize it in such a way that the stars Yin Essence and Perfect One are just above the top of your head. The two stars Yang Brightness and Mysterious Darkness should be higher up. In addition, Yin Essence and Yang Brightness should be toward your back, while Perfect One and Mysterious Darkness are in front. Though the image may be blurred at first, concentrate firmly and focus it in position.
Then concentrate (si ??) on the venerable Lords, the Three Ones. They appear suddenly in the bowl of the Dipper above your head. Before long their three ministers arrive in the same way. After a little while, observe how the six gods ascend together Mysterious Darkness, from where they move east. When they reach the Celestial Pass, they stop.
Together they turn and face your mouth. See how the Upper Prime supports the upper minister with his hand; how the Middle Prime supports the middle minister; and how the Lower Prime supports the lower minister.
Then take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. The Upper Prime and his minister follow this breath and enter your mouth. Once inside they ascend and go to the Palace of Niwan in the head.
Take another breath as deep as you can. The Middle Prime and his minister follow this breath and enter your mouth. Once inside they descend and go to the Scarlet Palace in the heart.
Take yet another breath as deep as you can. The Lower Prime and his minister follow this breath and enter your mouth. Once inside they descend and go to the lower Cinnabar Field in the abdomen.
Next visualize the star Celestial Pass and bring it down to about seven inches in front of your mouth. While this star stands guard before your mouth, the Three Ones firmly enter into their bodily palaces.
With this complete, concentrate again on the Perfected to make sure they are all at rest in their residences. From then on, whether sitting or lying down, always keep them firmly in your mind.
At any point during the practice, if concerns or desires arise in your mind, it will push to pursue them. Then, however much the mind strains to break free, make sure to keep it firmly concentrated on the Three Ones. See that you remain at peace and in solitude. Moreover, if your room is quiet enough, you may continue the practice well into the day. (DZ 253, 6a-7a; adapted from Kohn 1993, 212-14; cf. Andersen 1980, 46-47)
Visualizing the Dipper
Source: Jinque dijun wudou sanyi tujue, DZ 765, 16b
Seven Visible Stars of the Northern Dipper
Based on Kohn 1993, 213
1. Yangming _√? (Yang Brightness)
2. Yinjing _?? (Yin Essence)
3. Zhenren ??? (Perfect One)
4. Xuanming ?˛⁄? (Mysterious Darkness)
5. Danyuan ???? (Cinnabar Prime)
6. Beiji ??_ (North Culmen)
7. Tianguan ??_ (Celestial Pass)
Within this method, the Daoist adept visualizes the Northern Dipper (Big Dipper) above his or her head. The two lower stars of the dipper bowl rest in close proximity to the top of the head, while the handle extends forward so that the seventh star, called Celestial Pass, rests in front of the mouth. At the beginning of spring, one faces east; that is, one enters a posture of cosmological alignment based on the Five Phases (Wood/spring/east). One in turn visualizes the Three Ones (sanyi ?˝??), the Three Primes (sanyuan ?˝??) or Three Purities (sanqing ?˝??), in the dipper bowl. They ascend together to the fourth star, Mysterious Darkness, move to the seventh star, Celestial Pass, and wait there facing towards the adept?s mouth.
The adept then visualizes each one in sequence (upper, middle, lower) entering their respective corporeal locations (Niwan, Scarlet Palace, Cinnabar Field). In this way the Three Heavens and their corresponding gods become located in the Daoist adherent?s very own body. The text, in turn, advises the Daoist aspirant to follow the same instructions for the commencements of the other seasons: Lixia ???? (Summer Begins; approx. May 5th) facing south; liqiu ???? (Autumn Begins; approx. August 8th) facing west; and lidong ??∂? (Winter Begins; approx. November 11th) facing north. The corresponding time seems to be same, namely, 11pm to 1am. There are thus seasonal, cosmological, and theological dimensions of the practice.
EARLY DAOIST VISUALIZATION: FORMATION, INTEGRATION AND SYSTEMATIZATION
Based on extant Daoist scriptures, it appears that the earliest forms of Daoist visualization practice originated in the context of the divinization of Laozi, which occurred in the Eastern Han (20-220 CE). Eastern Han dynasty Daoist adepts took Laozi?s process of cosmicization and self-divinization as a model; they in turn visualized their own bodies as an inner landscape and inner cosmos, complete with inner pantheon. The earliest texts to address Daoist visualization emphasize a subtle body, complete with esoteric somatic locations. This must be considered a pivotal development in Daoist religious history. The emphasis on visualization, subtle energetics, and an inner pantheon became standardized and systematized in Highest Clarity. This system, in concert with other earlier religio-cultural currents, became central to later internal alchemy.
Based on my historical reconstruction, the earliest forms of Daoist visualization emphasized subtle and esoteric somatic locations. This involved a nascent understanding of the Daoist body in which ?elixir fields? (dantian ????) occupied a central position. Important esoteric names found in the Eastern Han dynasty texts include the Cinnabar Hut (danlu; navel region), Purple Chamber (zifang; cranial location), and Yellow Court (huangting; (possibly either the lower or upper elixir field; later usually the spleen). The texts also emphasize visualization methods that incorporate correlative cosmology (Five Phases) and the five yin-organs. One important research question involves the order of precedence among simple color-orb visualization and organ-god visualization. My research indicates that these methods may have been contemporaneous.
However, it was not until the early Six Dynasties, especially with the Highest Clarity movement, that the various body-gods were described according to specific, esoteric names, visual appearances, and clothing. In addition, Highest Clarity systematized, if not created, a complex map of external and internal correspondences, in which the sacred realms and deities had corresponding somatic locations. In this context, there were visualization methods that allowed one to connect with divine presences and integrate them into one?s own body. Another major discovery is the following: It seems that early medieval Daoism utilized competing somatic pantheons. There were at least three major inner pantheons, as documented in the Middle Scripture of Laozi, Scripture on the Yellow Court, and the Highest Clarity revelations proper.
At the same time, some texts describe multiple body-gods in the same location. In some cases, there are a variety of paired gods; in others, there is a layering, or overlapping, of different gods. This suggests that alternative views were coalescing, most likely from different Daoist communities, including currently unknown ones. Highest Clarity was one of the main inheritors and innovators in early medieval Daoism, and its representatives seem to have combined disparate maps into an emerging integrated and standardized system.
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